“We have gone from being a small business to being horribly taxed” - Norwich pub of the year the King’s Head on a challenging industry

The King's Head on Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: King's Head

The King's Head on Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: King's Head - Credit: Archant

It has been crowned pub of the year in Norwich three times since being revived more than decade ago.

The King's Head team celebrating Norwich and Norfolk Camra Pub of the Year award. Picture: King's He

The King's Head team celebrating Norwich and Norfolk Camra Pub of the Year award. Picture: King's Head - Credit: Archant

And the owner of the King's Head on Magdalen Street said the rare success story is down to keeping it simple and relying on a loyal, supportive community.

Owner Stephen George, also of Humpty Dumpty Brewery, made the comments in the wake of the Norwich and Norfolk Camra branch pub of the year award last week.

Around 2004 the pub had been in dire straits and was almost closed down, before the previous owners Jon Smith and Roland Coomber took over, with a focus on real ale.

It is their work that paved the way for the success of the pub today, according to Mr George.

King's Head on Magdalen Street owner Stephen George and manager Alison White. Picture: Dominic Gilbe

King's Head on Magdalen Street owner Stephen George and manager Alison White. Picture: Dominic Gilbert - Credit: Archant


You may also want to watch:


'It was about to shut down when the previous chaps came over with some grant money,' he said. 'It is a lovely old building but it had become more than a little dilapidated. 'There was significant work that had to be done before it reopened. They had a good reputation in the real ale community and they built it up quickly as a good, old-fashioned pub.'

He added the current team had made 'very few changes' in the pub's offering, but were investing in the structure of the building.

Most Read

'You don't mess with a classic,' he said. 'It is just part of the community, not about the hard sell or maximising revenue from every nook and cranny of the place. If you come in a stranger, you won't stay a stranger for very long.'

But Mr George said pressures on the pub industry are making life more difficult.

'The smoking ban killed some pubs and the rates in the pub doubled this year. It is outrageous. We have gone from being a small business to being horribly taxed.

'The new budget has some provisions for pubs to deal with rate rises, but at the end of the day it comes down to the quality of the offering.

'If you can make people feel comfortable and you reflect the local community it can work. I do think city pubs suffer from a lack of footfall, and in villages they have to do food to justify themselves.'

Mr George added the award was down to the fact they 'hadn't dropped the ball' from the previous owners since taking over in 2013, and the fact his team had made the place 'excellent.'

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter